Look, this is not a "fire Joe Maddon" meme by any means, as despite the criticism I may have levied on Maddon during the last two postseason runs, he is still one of the best managers in the game. However, he turns 64 in February, and one has to wonder how long he will want to deal with the stresses and long seasons.
One also has to wonder how long before those criticisms start emanating from the front office, especially if the Cubs fail to reach the promised land once again next year?
While Maddon seemed to be unaware of the impending firing of Chris Bosio, new reports indicate that it was his decision. If it was not his decision, and he is just being a good soldier and going along with the plan, how would it make him feel, especially if Theo gets rid of other staff members down the line?
However, if we are to believe it truly was his decision, and that his relationship with Bosio had "deteriorated". then that's a good sign that the front office still believes in him. And with good reason, for he has won a lot of games the past three seasons and a World Series trophy.
Meanwhile, it is also true that his good friend and former pitching coach in Tampa Bay, Jim Hickey, is available, so that may have had something to do with the move. Still, I believe the front office may have decided that Bosio wasn't preaching aggressive strike-throwing, as Theo stated in his lengthy, end of season presser that the problem of walks was "systemic".
The point is, changes happen when teams fail to reach their goals. So you have to wonder whether via his decision, or the front office, how long Maddon will manage the Cubs. How long will Joe want to deal with the pressure and how long before some of the criticisms start coming from the front office?
I know that 64 is the new 54, or something like that, but the man is no spring chicken, and he has accomplished what he so desired to accomplish by winning the World Series. I'm sure he'd like to cement his legend, and potential Hall of Fame status, by winning another one, but the grind has to be getting to him physically if not mentally.
Then there is the constant criticism I mentioned earlier coming from not just me (I mean, who cares what I say—certainly not Joe), but from a lot of media and fans over his bullpen management and his willingness to panic in tough situations. Joe can dye his hair all he wants, but people start to get tired as they age, and at some point Joe may decide he just doesn't need this.
After all, as great as the fans of the Cubs can be, we can get fickle quickly when things don't go our way. Now that we've had a taste of the championship bubbly, a poor season next year (I'm not predicting that, I personally think the Cubs will be great again) could start the boo birds to howl whenever Joe makes a pitching change and that could start to get to him.
For as cool, calm and collected he seems to be, Maddon is human and this stuff must get to him a little bit, right? Having said that, 64 isn't ancient by any means and the chance to win another title must be motivation for the long-time coach and skipper. However, baseball is a crazy game and nothing is guaranteed.
I've already started to notice a slight crack in Joe's armor, as he has been getting a bit more defensive recently when asked about his moves. His steadfast acknowledgement that he wouldn't change a thing does not seem to fit his character, and is most likely a defensive reaction. I say that because in other situations Joe is very open-minded and willing to consider alternatives.
But look, Joe isn't going anywhere anytime soon. For one thing, unless a veteran manager like Bruce Bochy or Terry Francona suddenly became available, there really aren't any other managers I would want for this team in its current state. I expect Joe Girardi to return with the Yankees, but even he wouldn't be able to push Maddon out of his chair in Chicago.
If this was a rebuilding team, I would go with Alex Cora, who the Red Sox just hired. I believe he will be the next outstanding young manager, bright and articulate, bi-lingual, and very open to advanced metrics. But Theo isn't going to replace Joe now, and certainly not with a guy who has never managed before.
Even a solid manager like Francona was eventually fired by Theo, as every manager has a shelf life. The Nats won a lot of regular season games, but Dusty isn't going to return, as the name of the game is championships. Maybe Dusty is a poor example, because he isn't a good analytical manager, but he does click with his players very well.
The point is, MLB is very much a 'what have you done for me lately' type of gig, and just winning a lot of games and even division titles simply isn't enough, especially in a big market when they're throwing around $200 million worth of salaries. John Farrell was recently fired by the Red Sox, even though he won a World Series and three division titles in his five seasons. Again, let me reiterate that I believe in the Cubs, but IF they were to miss the playoffs or fail to get far in the playoffs next season, believe me, the talk will start for Maddon as well.
Ozzie Guillen is another example, although his mouth basically ran him out of two jobs. But even a good manager who has won a World Series title is susceptible to being fired at some point, and as he ages, Joe may stick around until he inevitably gets the boot or decides that he's had enough.
This is a very different age for leaders of sporting teams mainly because of social media. I mean, when Mike Ditka coached the Bears to its first-ever Super Bowl title, he was hailed as a sort of god. In fact, he still owns this town. Yep, no oppression felt by this guy.
But don't expect the same to happen for Maddon. I mean, he's getting his just due for the generally outstanding job he has done for the Cubs, but eventually the fickle fans or his age will be the deciding factor in how long he continues to stand in the dugout. I do believe this is his last job, though. Even if fired by the Cubs, I don't see him managing anywhere else, although one never knows.
Imagine poor Ricky Renteria being replaced in two Chicago markets as manager just as the team is about to get good! Imagine Joe leaving the Cubs to manage the White Sox in a couple years when they are ready to take off...now that would be both sad and delicious irony at the same time.
But no, that's not going to happen, although it would make for interesting radio stalk show fodder, wouldn't it? But back to reality—Maddon and the front office have their work cut out for themselves this offseason. I wrote about some of the obvious moves they need to make, and it is admittedly a somewhat daunting task.
Meanwhile, the Cubs blue train keeps moving forward and despite this setback, I expect this team will have more bites at the apple, and Joe will be the one guiding the players to stay on track and avoid derailing.
But for how much longer?
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